Bigger

Things are getting bigger here, the chickens, the kids and the seedlings! I am happy so far with how the Cornish Cross are growing without having any major issues yet. They tend to have leg problems and they can’t walk far when they get a few weeks older and I am not really looking forward to that but so far so good. I also have a third laying hen chick named Betty II who is a barred rock. The Black Sexlink, Millie, that we got on Feb. 15 is so funny. She really likes people and has started hopping on your hand if you are near her and flying up to the top of the box to perch and look around. They do have their own personalities for sure.

Then I got six of the red cornish chickens that will be about 8 weeks for harvest or processing (however you want to call it). They are seemingly just like the cornish x but it does seem they are growing a tad bit smaller.

One day I would love to have a few roosters and more hens so we can have even more chicks. Hopefully that will happen in the next year.

 

 

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New chicks

I had ordered 5 Cornish Cross birds to eat and then I got two pullets to keep this week. I was going to separate them right away but had to wait a day until I had enough money for an extra light and bulb. I wanted to keep them separate so my 7-year-old (almost) daughter won’t have a hard time with which ones are going to be killed and which ones are going to be kept for eggs. Initially she was upset and then even cried before bed full tears about getting chickens we were going to eat. The whole life cycle and everything is upsetting really if you get down to it and you love animals as we do. I showed her a clip of a purdue chicken farmer from Food Inc. so she could see that the chickens don’t go outside they just eat until they almost explode and are crammed into a small space. These chickens are not smart according to most people and I will have to start taking their food away at 3 weeks at night so they don’t eat themselves to death. I explained how when we eat chicken that it matters where it comes from and how it was raised. She had a complete turnaround and is giving the meat birds attention too despite my cautions. She tells me that we are doing the right thing and that she is making sure that they have a good life while they are here. That made me really proud as I felt like she is actually getting it. With fruit and vegetables she totally gets it and is a bit of a produce snob when we go places but the meat thing is something we haven’t discussed. I wanted to do some meat birds this year instead of eating chicken raised the way it is from the grocery store. Next week we will get some red broilers which are known to forage a little more and also are a little bit smarter though we will see. I have friends and family who are going to pay me for the chickens and we will see how it goes. I am starting small in case it’s an ordeal that I freak out about but honestly I have been through the process before up close so I am confident I won’t have a problem. I should do a post sometime about how I was vegetarian for 15 years.

The two chicks we are keeping are Millie the black sexlink and Chicakboo the Buff Orpington. Chickaboo has marker on her head because we needed to be able to tell her apart from the Cornish because they were in the same box. My husband saw a Buff Orpington this summer and said he wanted at least one. This from a man who did not want chickens 6 years ago. I wanted to get black sexlinks last year because I loved the one we had and she laid eggs after she was even quite old (though not regularly). She actually died of natural causes and is buried under the Asian pear tree which gave us a ton of fruit this past year. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. They didn’t get the black sexlinks in when I was doing my shopping though. 🙂

We plan to get a speckled sussex, a barred rock and an ameraucana and one other one which I am not sure of yet. I have 6 currently that are laying but at least one doesn’t lay every day so I tend to get 5 eggs a day usually. We have a grandma chicken who is maybe 7 years old I think who seems happy and comfy with her other friends back there. She was from the original group that we got back in 2006 I think it was. I wanted chickens and my sister had a friend that wanted to get rid of her’s because of high cholesterol and lack of quality time to spend with them.

When chickens attack

This is the culprit Mrs. Paulson. She is named after one of the teachers at Melody’s school. We name our hens every year after the teachers at school though this year I have no idea because I am planning to get 7 more hens and there’s only 4 teachers. She is a Gold Sexlink and is a year old in her prime egg laying really. She has attacked Willow twice now and I finally googled it to see if I could find anything out about why? She isn’t defending a nest because the nest had no eggs in it and was far enough away from where Willow was minding her own business.

The first time she attacked she kind of looked like she was trying to perch on her head. They like to fly a bit up on top of the tomato cages in the off season and so I thought she was just being stupid and thought Willow’s head was a good spot.

Yesterday she attacked her once and almost did a second time but I grabbed her by the tail feathers and lofted her around yelling “no” and threw her in the other direction.

The only thing I could find online was that roosters defend their hens but I don’t think of her as being the dominant lady in the pecking order though she is up there I guess. Right before she flew up and pecked Willow and scratched her on the face Willow was trying to push her away with a green plastic shovel. She is the most tame of all the chickens and I don’t want to get rid of her but hopefully I can put them all back in the pen and then we can be outside without worrying Willow will get attacked. Seems really silly to be scared of a chicken but she is right to be scared of her! If anyone has any ideas or suggestions as to why Mrs. P is doing this let me know. 🙂

Mulching a path

Last year we had our annual strawberry party in the backyard and in order to get into the backyard I moved some pavers in on the path, some straw bales and newspaper. At first it was crazy puffy and it looked kind of weird but now it looks perfect. The newspaper and cardboard that I laid down has decomposed and then the straw is in various stages of decay and keeping the weeds down. This area was all gravel originally and we have taken  most of it out now which is nice. I have been throwing leaves and then some of the straw into the raised beds to prevent weeds before I can dig them out. I need to add compost to the beds too but I can’t find the shovel!

Growing List

I don’t like planting tons of stuff from seed and starting it early but I have worked out a good system in past years for starting some indoors and then direct seeding a lot of the other plants.  I use Territorial Seed for the most part because I like them, they are local and the varieties are of course tested for the area and not in the Midwest somewhere. Tomato and pepper plants are grown from starts from the farm store usually and then potatoes are from seed potatoes planted in March.

Basil
Bright Lights Swiss Chard
Babylon Hybrid slicing cucumber
Miniature white novelty cucumber
Lemon cucumber
Carrots cumbre hybrid
Carrots nelson hybrid
Yaya Carrots
Canoe Peas – Canoe
Ching-Chiang Pac Choi – Ching-Chiang
Chioggia Beet Seeds
Coriander-Santo (Cilantro)
Cube of Butter Squash – Cube of Butter Squash Seeds
Dakota Peas
Fiesta Broccoli Seeds
Jade Bean – JadeLettuce Pot and patio blend
Lettuce salad bowl oak leaf
Mokum Carrots
Patio Star Squash
Purple Haze Carrots
Red Kuri Squash
Regatta Spinach
Royal Burgundy Bean
Speedy BeanTomato organic beaverlodge sliver ultra early
Thelma Sanders’ Sweet Potato Squash Seeds
Touchstone Gold Beet

Herbs

thyme
lovage
sage
marshmallow
rosemary
mugwort

and many more but haven’t done my herb seed order yet

Fruit 

strawberries

peaches 2

plums2

Asian pear 1

bartlett pear 1

Persimmon 1

There are cherry trees nearby to harvest and then tons of apples everywhere for free in the fall.

Getting ready for Spring

This year I mean business with growing things! I don’t have land yet but I am going to grow our fruit, veggies and chickens for meat and eggs. I am making our own juices and alcohol too. There isn’t any reason that I can’t start small and then when I move to a piece of land I can take the knowledge I have and kick it up a notch. I sent out an e-mail to a few friends to see about the interest in chicken so I can make sure to have only the amount we can all use. No one has a big freezer though my parents have two regular size ones so we can only raise as many as we can all use and freeze. I cannot buy chicken from the regular grocery store without a lot of guilt about what went into that animal before it got to me and how it’s life was. Our raised beds are a good size for placing a chicken tractor (moveable pen) on top of and then it will get fertilized while the chickens are on it too. I haven’t constructed my tractor yet but I have a baby gate idea and also can get free wood nearby to construct one to fit over a raised bed.

I did our seed order from Territorial Seed and they arrived on Thursday. I set up a growing area near the sliding glass door so the seedlings will get real sun and also the grow lights that I set up. Willow had this storage shelf in her closet and I realized that she doesn’t need it because she has a dresser now. I think the lights were $17 each or so at Lowes and the seedling trays were together $8. I put the homemade hard cider and mead on the shelves so they aren’t in the kitchen on the counter taking up space. Some of the airlocks don’t fit under the counter and it was causing a problem for storing them. I will do a separate post on fermenting in summer vs. winter soon including information on different yeasts and temperatures.